Baby, please don’t let me be misunderstood

A caustic, analytical, and extremely intelligent person said to me several years ago, “You know what your problem is?”

(I love conversations that start that way, don’t you? Inevitably, I don’t know what my problem is, but I feel 10 inches small as I brace myself to hear what gaping flaw in my character is so glaringly obvious to others and yet such a mystery to me that someone might feel that they are doing me a favor by pointing it out in no uncertain terms.)

She said: “You need other people to understand you.”

And at the time, I thought, “Well, that isn’t so bad. I mean, doesn’t everyone want to be understood?”

Obviously, though, the comment stuck with me since that was about eight years ago. Eight years ago I assumed that the need to be understood was universal, that no one could feel fulfilled in a relationship of any kind without feeling understood and accepted by the other person. Recently, I have realized that I can’t “do” intimacy without it. I cannot connect with a person on a deep level if the other person doesn’t share that desire to learn about me and to tell me about himself in a meaningful way. I used to think that that quality was curiosity, and that’s what I have called it, but it is bigger than that.

I’ve also realized that the craving for mutual understanding and acceptance is a big part of what drives my fascination with horses. A horse very quickly begins to reflect your behavior towards him back, and if you’re playing the “inner game of horsemanship” as it were, then you know that when you are training a horse, what you’re really trying to improve is yourself. The horse becomes a kind of an immediate, physical, pure sort of feedback. Every ounce of aggression, impatience, frustration, or incompetence will show up. Each moment the horse asks your best of you, because he does not care if you called your mother today, or you fed him on time last night, if you paid your bills on time, or didn’t fold the laundry. He cares that you are present and trustworthy in this moment in time.

It’s probably not a good and healthy thing to need understanding at the level that I seem to require it. It is too close to needing people to like you, rather than to be who you are and let the people who like you, like you, and those who don’t fall away.

I talk a lot because I crave that understanding. I think that if can explain myself thoroughly enough, then you will truly see me for who I am. And I want that back from you. Small talk doesn’t do it for me… I want to know how you think, what your principles are, and what are your weaknesses, strengths, and passions. I want this kind of intimacy whether you will be in my life for a week or a year or forever. Without it, for me, any relationship quickly withers.

But I have realized more recently than I’d care to admit that even very intelligent, caring people do not need me to know all about them, or need to know all about me. My dad is at the top of that list. He is a loving, caring father. But my relationship with him has never been truly satisfying to me because I don’t feel like I know him. I don’t feel like he shares with me. He doesn’t ask me for a lot in return. He is a good man, and I love him and respect him. I feel obligated to be less emotionally needy when I’m around him, to accept less and receive happily what he is able to give me, which is a lot. I find myself trying to pare myself down, talk less, think less, be a little more self-contained. Perhaps it would improve me to move in this direction? Perhaps I would benefit from a person like that in my life as a balancing influence?

~ Sex Kitten (with claws)

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, check out this great post on the same subject by The Relationship Flunkie.

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